Saturday, 20 December 2014

Not a “play” at all

Yesterday, after thinking so for a long time after it was suggested by a relative of mine, I actually emailed Benjamin Wiker to ask his if his 2008 Ten Books that Screwed Up the World was a play on John Reed’s 1919 Ten Days that Shook the World. The assumption that Wiker’s publishers took the title directly form Reid’s book I never questioned even though there are just too many lists of ‘Ten...’ to be sure.

Although Wiker – despite not being the “vice squad” type person one critic of his work said – is not perfectly responsive to emails and I admit without a grudge he almost certainly considers too trivial or too repetitive the majority of what I have sent to him, he did respond to this email form yesterday smoothly and said quite simply
“no, nothing at all”
So, what I’ve found is that I had a myth on my hands from my half-sister for six full years! It’s notable that one discussion of Human Events’ ‘Ten Most Harmful Books of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries’ did mention Reed’s book (these are just the relevant texts altered as little as I can):

Books unworthy enough but not listed by Human Events include:

  • Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (Mark Twain called it “the latest and best of all Bibles”)
  • Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man (“Fiction calls the facts by their name and their reign collapses,” “the prevailing mode of freedom is servitude,” “the process by which logic became the logic of domination,” blah, blah, blah)
  • Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States (critique)
  • Leo Strauss’s Persecution and the Art of Writing (“one may wonder whether some of the greatest writers of the past have not adapted their literary technique to the requirements of persecution, by presenting their views on all the then crucial questions exclusively between the lines”)
  • John Reed’s Ten Days that Shook the World (“the author sleeps forever under the Kremlin Wall”)
  • Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation (PETA awards an abridged version to new members)
  • Henry George’s Progress and Poverty (save for the Bible, said to be the most widely read book in the English language in the 19th century)
  • Richard Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker
  • Michael Harrington’s The Other America
  • Gunnar Myrdal’s An American Dillema
  • Wilhelm Reich’s The Mass Psychology of Fascism (“although it is rightfully a critique of Nazism he argued that it stemmed from sexual repression. The book was a huge hit with the 60s generation and New Left and we now have social decay as a result”)
  • The Doors of Perception, Aldous Huxley (“death and brain damage, the human wreckage from the book can be found in many nursing homes today.”)

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